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Kraft Removes Artificial Coloring from Its Mac and Cheese

November 6, 2013

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Kraft macaroni and cheese has long been a staple of the Standard American Diet. Now the vibrant yellow hue of this pasta is getting makeover.

As part of a shift towards marketing its processed and prepackaged foods as “healthier,” Kraft has been trying to incorporate more nutritional value into their products. As part of that initiative, this coming year they will remove artificial food coloring from macaroni and cheese products marketed to children, replacing the bright color with spices such as paprika, annatto and turmeric.

This change is part of Kraft’s plan to release a bevy of products with no food colorings and other health benefits. For example, they are also planning to add whole grain to some of their products, and include “organic,” “deluxe” and “homestyle” varieties.

So what accounts for this change of heart from one of America’s largest junk food giants? It may just be consumer influence and the power of social media. Vani Hari, blogger in Charlotte N.C., had started a petition to get Kraft to take the artificial food colorings out of their products. She explains that Yellow #5 and Yellow #6 (artificial colorings in Kraft) are carcinogenic, made from crude oil products, contribute to hyperactivity in children, have a negative impact on children’s ability to learn, cause long term health problems, add virtually no nutritional value, and are not only illegal outside of the U.S. but require a warning label. Kraft mac and cheese products in European countries don’t contain the same harmful additives as their American counterparts. Hari claims that Kraft puts the artificial coloring in the foods because they are cheaper than the spices that are used in Europe.

Kraft insists that its choice to switch to more natural ingredients had nothing to do with Hari’s petition, which almost 350,000 people signed. "Like a corporation, they're not going to say that it was because of us," Hari said, "They're going to try and act like they were planning to do it all along."

According to The Associated Press, only the products marketed to children will have their ingredients changed. The “original flavor” will retain the original Kraft recipe, artificial flavorings and all. 

Although Kraft products have never been on my shopping list, the startling revelation of what is actually in Yellow #5 and Yellow #6 simply shouts, “One more reason to fervently read labels!” I’m not jumping out of my seat to go buy the new product, but it’s always nice to know that social change is possible if enough people believe in a cause. Let’s keep demanding healthy options from our food providers!

What’re your thoughts on Kraft’s decision?